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Adele Roberts on creating joy for fellow cancer survivors and the queer community

Whether it’s being open about her sexuality or her frankness over her battle with bowel cancer, the DJ knows how powerful sharing her story can be

By Dale Fox

Adele Roberts
Adele Roberts (Image: Markus Bidaux/Attitude; Design: Richard Burn/Attitude)

Adele Roberts has faced many challenges in her life. But in the face of adversity, the DJ and broadcaster remains as positive and sunny as ever – one of the many reasons why she’s a 2024 PEUGEOT Attitude Pride ICON Award winner.

Growing up mixed-race in a “chaotic but loving” working-class family in the northwest of England in the 1980s, Adele always felt like she stood out. “I knew I was a little bit different, and I didn’t really know what that meant or why I felt that way,” she recalls. It wasn’t until the age of 15 that she realised she might be gay. “I remember thinking, ‘Oh gosh, not me. Why? Why am I gay? I don’t want to be gay.’”

But, thanks to the example set by her parents, Adele found strength and pride in her identity. “Because I grew up in a mixed-race household, my parents always said to us, ‘Be proud of who you are; never apologise for who you are.’ And so, I just used that same logic in terms of my sexuality.”

“There were people just shining bright” – Adele Roberts on her queer musical inspirations of the 80s and 90s

Music also played a pivotal role, with stars like Boy George, Sylvester and Grace Jones showing Adele that it was OK to be yourself. “I really identified with that. And even though I guess the language in the 80s and the 90s wasn’t the best in terms of the gay community, there were people just shining bright.”

Adele channelled this spirit when she first found fame on Big Brother in 2002. Conscious of a dire lack of LGBTQ+ representation in the media, she spoke openly about her sexuality. “I knew that that was important because when I was younger, nobody on the radio ever mentioned being gay,” she explains. “Nobody on the radio spoke about families in terms of gay families.”

Adele Roberts wearing a blue silk outfit against a green backdrop
“When I was younger, nobody on the radio ever mentioned being gay” (Image: Markus Bidaux/Attitude)

In her subsequent radio career, Adele continued to live authentically, referencing her girlfriends on air. Though she was still the only out gay female presenter on BBC Radio 1 when she left the channel last year, Adele hopes she’s helped pave the way for others. “I knew it was important to [be myself]. Even though I had a small platform, I knew that I had to be authentic and be myself.”

Apart from music, the greatest love of Adele’s life is her partner of 20 years, actress Kate Holderness. The couple first met when Kate visited Adele at the radio station where she worked at the time. “I remember seeing her opening the door and thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, she’s beautiful,’” Adele gushes. They’ve been inseparable ever since.

“We understand our privilege to have a platform where we can help other people”

“We understand our privilege to have a platform where we can help other people,” Adele says of her and Kate’s visibility as a same-sex couple. “We just try and show what a healthy, normal relationship is like, especially between two women, because again, it’s not reflected enough in the media.”

Kate Holderness and Adele Roberts against a green backdrop
Kate Holderness (left) is the love of Adele’s life (Image: Markus Bidaux/Attitude)

“Without it, I wouldn’t be alive, so I’ve always been proud of mine” – Adele on her stoma ‘Audrey’

Adele’s world was turned upside down in October 2021 when she was diagnosed with bowel cancer. True to form, she responded with courage and candour, documenting her treatment journey, including having a stoma created (an opening in the abdomen to divert waste) which she affectionately named Audrey.

“I just knew how important it was to talk about it,” Adele explains. “I couldn’t believe that I could be alive and have my intestines on the outside … Just the fact that it helped save my life. Without it, I wouldn’t be alive, so I’ve always been proud of mine.”

In April 2023, just 12 months after finishing chemotherapy, Adele took on another incredible challenge — running the London Marathon. Incredibly, she set the world record for the fastest marathon run by a female with an ileostomy.

Adele Roberts holding  copy of her book Personal Best
Adele and Kate co-authored Adele’s memoir, Personal Best (Image: Markus Bidaux/Attitude)

“That’s the message that I want to give to anybody who maybe is going to become an ostomate — it doesn’t stop you living your life,” Adele told Attitude right after her record-breaking run, through which she also raised over £10,000 for the Attitude Magazine Foundation.

After the recent release of Adele’s memoir Personal Best, co-authored by Kate, she now hopes to write a children’s book alongside Kate about living with a stoma. “If kids knew about stomas, if I knew about stomas when I was younger, I’d know they’re super cool,” she enthuses.

“It again reminds me of my privilege and my responsibility to help others” – Adele on her PEUGEOT Attitude Pride Award win

As for what her PEUGEOT Attitude Pride Icon Award win means to her, Adele remains as humble as ever. “Winning the award is not only the biggest honour; it also triggers my impostor syndrome,” she laughs. “But I’m going to get over it because it again reminds me of my privilege and my responsibility to help others, and it’s just going to drive me forward to keep doing that.”

Ultimately, Adele has a message of hope for anyone struggling. “Everything you’ve been through in your life up to the point where the bad thing happens, you’ve already got the answers within,” she says. “You already know how to get through it. You’ve already been through so much. It will be hard and you will be sad, but you will get through it. And if you don’t give up, you can’t be stopped.”

Indeed, no matter what obstacles life throws her way, Adele Roberts just keeps on going — forever determined, and always with a smile on her face.

Personal Best by Adele Roberts is available to order now.

This feature appears in Issue 359 of Attitude magazine, which is available to order online here and alongside 15 years of back issues on the free Attitude app.

Joel Kim Booster on the cover of Attitude Issue 359
Joel Kim Booster on the cover of Attitude Issue 359 (Image: Attitude)